tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN January 1, 2014 8:00pm-8:41pm EST
i wasn't thinking in cathartic terms and certainly wasn't thinking at of it in 50th anniversary turns. the book could have come out earlier but it was a story i wanted to tell and i always wanted to tell it and i decided it was time to tell it. maybe i will think about your question later and come up with an answer later. i didn't see it as cathartic when the road it and didn't see it as cathartic when it was published but maybe it was. >> this is your 15th book collects 15th book? >> no, no this is my 21st novel, 24th book. >> how a semiretirement for you? >> retirement is a word that doesn't mean anything to me. i am as busy now as i ever was. i just don't do the nightly show anymore and that's like saying i don't get wet when it rains anymore. every day no matter what at 6:00 eastern time i would have a tie
on and up to the caller and have my hair combed in all that. now i don't have to do that anymore. what it means is i was always writing even when i was doing the news hour but i was writing plays as well as novels. now i just have more space between offense. i'm still writing. i have more space and more time to spend with my kids and my grandkids. i know that's a cliché but in my case it really is true. i am the happiest nonretired retiree i know. >> jim lehrer's most recent novel is "top down" a novel of the kennedy assassination. this is booktv on c-span2.
>> now and look at scientology with lawrence wright. this is about 40 minutes. [applause] >> well, good morning. larry let's begin with a word in the title of the book, "going clear" scientology, hollywood and the prison of belief. scientology devotes a lot of organizational energy to tap into the celebrity culture that is so prominent in the united states today. talk to us about that. talk to us about what you found and why he devoted so much attention to that aspect of the book. >> well scientology was really created as a religion.
they would use celebrities. it was established in los angeles in 1954 and there was a reason for that. l. ron hubbard the founder of scientology realized that americans really do worship one thing for sure and that is celebrity. and where's the capital of celebrity? it's hollywood so scientology has become one of the major landlords in hollywood. early on, they set out to recruit celebrities. there was a church publication put out shortly after the founding of the church with a roster of respective celebrities and they included people like bob hope, walt disney, marlena dietrich, howard hughes, some of the most famous people in the world but those are the kinds of people that they sought to use as pitchman for their new religion.
and celebrities did come to the church. they built the celebrity center so that the celebrities would feel at home there. in some of the early people that came into the church were rock hudson pass through. apparently he got very upset when he was in the middle of an auditing session and he needed to put more money in the parking meter and they wouldn't let him out of the room. so he stormed out of never came back. gloria swanson, who was the sort of faded movie star of silent movies. you know later people like leonard cohen and even elvis pressley made a stop. he didn't stay in the church but his widow and daughter are still prominent members. so the idea was celebrities are useful. they become megaphones for advertising the church and its
benefits. if you look at the people that have been their spokespeople like john travolta and tom cruise, each of these guys at one time, was the number one movie star in the world and that's a very powerful lure to young people who have gone to hollywood and are solicited by the church to come to the celebrity center to see how to get an agent or get ahead in the business. they look at who was in the church and they think maybe i could he a star as well. >> okay now let's hear you talk more specifically about tom cruise. he has emerged in the last 10 to the teen years as one of the essential pillars of scientology to the point now where scientology is an organization, its reputation and influence is
tom cruise's reputation vice versa. mr. cruz's reputation influences scientology. what roles does he play for the church? >> tom cruise's than the visible face of scientology for decades now and there is no more famous or influential scientologist in the church since l. ron hubbard created it. you know from the beginning the church wanted some exemplary figure they could stand for the church. they didn't get bob hope. they didn't get disney but they did get tom cruise. they really got him. he is a very devoted member of the church. and david miscavige the leader of the church now says every
minute i have forgotten what the figure is that some 5000 people are awakened to the idea of scientology because of tom cruise. in no way knowing how to evaluate such a statement that there's no question that people know about scientology because of tom cruise. of course when you use the celebrity megaphone, you are tied to their behavior and sometimes that's not always an advantage for the organization that is represented by the celebrity. but of all the celebrities in scientology, i think no one bears a greater moral responsibility for demanding change inside the church and the abuses that are taking place in the upper level of the clergy than tom cruise. no one has undefended materially more than he has. you know inside the church there
is a clergy. it's called the sea or, the sea organization. there are people who have signed contracts for a billion years of service. they are paid $50 a week. many of them joined as children. i mean really as children, really young children and their whole lives are devoted to serving this organization. with unbelievably long work weeks and no money. a number of them have done work for tom cruise. they built a hangar for his airplanes, a limousine they built. they took the body of a limousine and handcrafted everything in it. they fixed up his houses and of even polishes lightbulbs.
and he derives all of this benefit in a way that no other member does. he is a very close friend of the leader. all of the physical abuse that your paper has chronicled and i have talked to a number of people as well who have told me they have been physically beaten by the leader of the church, and a number of people who have been confined in these punishment camps. i think the church is headed for an accounting but it's not going to happen unless people like tom cruise who have the standing in the church demand it. >> keeping this theme going you used in the title the words prison of belief so now let's get you talking about the controls that scientology exerts over its members, both its clergy but also its parishioners.
go ahead. >> i appreciate that you separated those two things because it's almost like two different churches in some ways. there are public people, people that go into the church of scientology and you know the truth is they might go in and they get something out of it and they leave. many of them do and they may be followed by telephone calls and mailers for the rest of their lives but essentially they can away from the church. and then there is another level of membership which is the celebrities who are public members that it's not as easy for them because they are often asked to be the public face of the church, to make declarations and come for instance to florida and testify about drugs and drug use and so on. they put their imprimatur on the behavior of the church and it's not so easy to walk away.
and then inside the church is this clergy that i spoke of. we don't know how many people are actually in it. when i was doing my research at one point they told me it was 5000, 6000 and up to 10,000. have you forgotten an estimate from the church on how many sea org members there are? >> 6000. >> 6000, okay. we take their word for it. inside the sea org, the people that go in often as children, they have very little education. they have no money because their resources are essentially $50 a week. they are cut off from their family and most of their family are members of the church. they may not have driver's licenses or passports and many of them are stationed in the sea
org headquarters in this desert in southern california a 500-acre compound surrounded by high fences with razor wire and motion year's and guards. supposedly to keep people from breaking into the compound but it also effectively keeps the people that are there confined. around different places in the world, where scientology has the residents, there are what are called rehabilitation project forces. they are reeducation camps for people that have strayed in their thinking or their behavior who are in the sea org. at the sea org headquarters, there were at one point to
double wide trailers married together to make an office suite and in 2006, david miscavige took all the furniture out of their and he began confining its upper-level executives, the top people in the church. so that they would go through this self-criticism kind of chinese communist behavior. it's not like for a weekend. the nominal leader of the church is an elderly man. he has been there for seven years. they sleep on sleeping bags and they were being max locked out of buckets and they were at getting out once a day for a shower. there is a lot of physical abuse that takes place. a lot of emotional abuse as well. it was in your paper the first time that you wrote about the
musical chairs episode which i think to me, it crystallizes the prison of the leaf better than anything i know. one night david miscavige appeared with a jam box and he had chairs brought in and he said, does anybody here know what musical chairs means? in scientology, that's actually a term that has to do with reclaim changing zip posts and more than 500 people had their jobs shifted around in the last couple of months so that is what they thought he was talking about. finally someone said it's also a game so miscavige have them explain how you put a circle of chairs and people walk around and there is one share fewer than the number of people there are so when the music stops, everybody -- is for the chairs and the person who is standing is out of the game. miscavige said, the last person
who gets to sit down can stay. everybody else is going to be sent off, kicked out of the sea org or if your wife is not in the sea org you will be divorced or sent off to some remote sea org location. he even had airline tickets printed up in a scientology travel office for these far-flung locations with u-haul travelers rabin. this game went on for hours and is the number of chairs diminished, fights broke out, clothing was torn in chairs were broken. people were fighting to stay. that's the fascinating part of this. he was offering them freedom and they were willing to fight each other for the opportunity to stay in confinement and the
whole as they call it, sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag and being slop out of the bucket to me, that defines the prison of belief. >> let's get you talking about how outside agencies, law enforcement agencies are shielded from penetrating scientology in pursuing some of these abuses. so much of what you have heard so far ladies and gentlemen i will tell you is written in scientology scripture. l. ron hubbard wrote millions and millions of words in the scientology scripture. >> he has the "guinness book of world records," just as the writer i have to take my hat off more than 1000 titles. >> but when someone, some member of the religious order expressed a desire to leave they could be put on punishment detail, work
detail and then be examined one-on-one for hours at a time. that is a religious practice in scientology. when someone decides i don't want to endure this and they scaled the fence that larry just told you about in runaway, going after that person and bringing them back is a religious practice. and speak now to how defensible that is within scientology from a legal and first amendment sam point. >> when i started my investigation i ran into an f. e. i investigation going on simultaneously and some of my sources were talking to the up the iso they talk to me. i got them to tell me what they were telling the f. d. i -- f. bia. they were mainly looking at this base that was talking about, gold base and on the basis of human trafficking people being
confined against their will. this is human trafficking is normally something they use with traitors. here they were thinking the church was vulnerable on this. they even apparently got the tail numbers on one of tom cruise's airplanes in case he tried to help miscavige make a run for it. they find this little trick plane that tom cruise liked. but the former executives who had escaped from scientology told them you know, if you were to break into the hole and open the door, they would say it's all sunshine and seashells. we are here of our own accord
and the story i just told you exemplifies that. but the fbi was still interested up until the suit in colorado the headley suit. two former members of the sea org had sued the church, alleging physical abuse. in the case of marc hadley. he had been beaten by the leader of the church. his wife clara claimed that she had been forced to have an abortion. they had worked years and years from the age of children when they went in. and they had been confined on the base. they both had to escape. but a judge ruled that all of these were religious practices. and there was little that the law enforcement could do about it. whereupon the fbi gave up on their investigation. what were they to do? and that's one of the reasons i
hold people like tom cruise accountable, because we are in an odd spot. joe and i can write about it. we can't prosecute it. we can just bring to public attention what's actually happening and going on. the law enforcement agencies are stymied and the irs, which is another agency that can make a difference it's cowed. so there is very -- there are very few avenues for actual reform inside of the church except that those celebrity megaphones turn around and face in the other direction. >> let's shift gears just slightly and talk about not the religious order, not the people who signed the billionaire contracts -- billion year contracts. they know they are going into an isolated setting so it's not a surprise to them.
let's talk about the people who are in civilian life that are scientologists, the people that live down the street from me and from you perhaps send our so-called parishioners. could they read your book and if not why not? when the video of this presentation is posted on the internet, could they go to their computer and see this video? if not, why not? >> well, if you use the verb could, guess they could. if they would, they won't. scientology has, to me it's like a flock of words. there is a group mind and it's fascinating and a little frightening to watch how uniform uniform they are in their reactions. even people that are not under the threat of confinement.
i have spoken on a number of occasions about scientology and i have been on the number of radio shows and so on. i have only had one scientologist actually call-in and no scientologist ever identifies, no current practicing member of the church would stand up at a group like this and if there is someone here that would like to do that i would be happy to talk to you about it. one person wrote a complaint to my editor and i sent her a note saying, have you read the book lacks no. well, would you like to? no. and i said i'd be grateful if you would quit making accusations about the book that you haven't read and please let me send it to you. no. finally you know she continued to engage me because there was
something going on with her obviously. i think a lot of people were in it right now who are in scientology who were in a very turbulent frame of mind it is there so much agitation happening inside the church. she finally did say that she would let you send her the book but it had to be in it plain brown envelope so her husband wouldn't know. years ago, the church offered dvds and cds to their members that would control the internet and make sure locked anything that would be derogatory towards the church so they wouldn't have to hear it. in scientology terms, this is all just bad information. it will do you no spiritual goods so don't listen to it.
for the most part it's been my experience that scientologist take that very seriously. they don't want to hear anything bad about scientology. so they close their eyes in and their minds in their ears. >> the person to whom you may have sent that look, if you did, his or her spouse would have a spiritual duty to report that person. >> that's right. >> that they saw them reading the book. >> right, and there are consequences even for members who were not in the sea org. if that happens you'll have to go in for extra auditing and it will be suggested that you take these courses that are very expensive and it runs up the real tab. also, it's expensive but what is more threatening is the possible
loss of friends, family members and members of your community that you depend upon who will turn against you if you are seen or thought to be reading material that is bad for your spiritual health. >> okay now we will switch it the gear and get you talking about the creator of scientology l. ron hubbard. this great book achieves at many levels and one of the great accomplishments is the depth of information about l. ron hubbard. i have read a lot of stuff about l. ron hubbard and i learned so much reading larry's luck. it seems to me that you clearly set out to do it another free on l. ron hubbard and you achieve that. what drove you to drill down into him? why did you think that was so important and what were some of the oh wow moments you had along that road at pursuit? >> well i have it very as a
writer that in order to tell a story about a very esoteric, complicated world, you need what i call a donkey. a donkey sounds like a disparaging term but a donkey is a very useful piece -- beast of burden and he can take you, the reader into a world that you have never been in and carry on his back a lot of information. so if you have a fascinating donkey, the reader will take that ride. so i had two main donkeys in my book. one was paul haggis, the academy award-winning writer and director who dropped out of scientology after 34 years, who could tell me about the world of scientology in modern times and the other was l. ron hubbard, one of the most intriguing people i have ever had the opportunity to write about.
one of the things that is so fascinating about him is that he really did live a fascinating life, a very compelling and interesting life, but he felt the need to make it more fascinating than it actually was and he created legends about himself that are at the basis of dianetics which was his self-help therapy that he created in later the church of scientology. the most glaring one of these is the legend that after world war ii, he was blinded and crippled and confined in a naval hospital in the bay area in california and medicine couldn't help him. so he developed techniques that
he later called dianetics that healed himself. now, when there was an occasion when scientologist came to "the new yorker", tommy davis and his wife the chief spokesperson and his wife and for scientology lawyers along with 47 volumes of binders with material to respond to our 968 facts checking queries. it was quite a day. but at some point tommy davis and the spokesperson said, if it's true that l. ron hubbard lied about his ambition, you know that he was lined in and crippled, then dianetics is based on a lie lie in scientology is based on a lie grade i think on "the new yorker" site of the table are eyebrows all went up to kiss this is a checkable fact.
we are to have the freedom of information request into the va and the military records in st. louis. we sent an intern down there to get the 900 some odd pages that they have on his military record he had conjunctivitis and arthritis in his hip so it wasn't exactly blinded and crippled but in a way you can see where he was going with that. and i don't know that he was ever healed of those injuries, but unfortunately for the church they are stuck with the statements that hubbert made about himself. i think what is fascinating about him is he is the most polarizing individual. .. compelling
manner for a lot of people. he would spin the stories about his past lives in a very humorous manner, a seemingly erudite manner. nobody ever seemed to ask him where these stories came from. the one in the chance where i had some of they did ask him, they said the response was let's not get into that. >> the current scientology leader has been in charge for 27 years now. yet companies still is is an enigma to many. there's been some controversy surrounding the church in greece nears. a lot of it is controversy that surrounds him personally.
you devote a lot of energy to reporting on david ms. h. was that a design as well year? >> you know, david ms. cabbages the brigham young of scientology often times you have a religious entrepreneurially juices met who created more minutes than. many new religions are created, but they don't survive after the death of the charismatic leader because there's no person to follow a period david miscarriage save scientology. they saved it from the mistakes hubbard made.
1993 -day-old billion dollars for at the time. at the time, we at $129 million. they've decided we have to get our tax exemption. saturday go about it? been launched 2400 lawsuit against the irs and individual agents. they hired private detectives to go around to conferences where they trail people and find out who's drinking too much, who was sleeping around to publish articles in the magazines about this and pass them the steps of 1111 constitution avenue, which is headquarters of the irs. they intimidated the irs. now whatever the merits of their case, those were the facts that surrounded their getting a tax
exemption. it was -- you know, i just said they owed a billion dollars. the irs prime and $12 million did they forget the billion dollars. they gave them the authority to decide on their own which parts of the church are actually tax exempt. they even made our ron hubbard's novels scriptures those are also tax the m. it was such a thoroughgoing that very. it's hard to even imagine. bear in mind, the irs is not the best equipped agency. but they are the only agency that has that authority. once the irs made that finding, the vast protections of the first amendment guarantees a religion that surrounded the church of scientology p. and
protects the for many of the legal recourse is that they would ordinarily turn to you. >> one more question and then we will see what questions you all have. i'm going to ask a question that's on the minds of some people here. this book is not a flattering portrayal of scientology or l. ron hubbard. he is revered within the church. so, after the publication of this book, how is it bad for you? >> well, you know, you've been through the same thing. a lot of legal threat. but you know, no actual follow-up on that. they did publish one of their freedom magazine. "the new yorker" came on some
anniversary issue. every year around valentine's day, new yorker has its original cover. an old man in the top hat in the monocle looking at a butterfly. the name is eustace tilley. that name of the care there. so, that was the issue in which the paul haggis profile appeared. so freedom magazine is a scientology magazine that came out other cartoon of eustace tilley that was me, with coming out. and it was a slam and even took shots at the fact checkers, which annoyed me a lot. but because i think there were feeling especially stone because the fact checkers at "the new yorker" are really good.
there was one checker on the article full-time for six months. at the end, we had six checkers include the head of the checking department going through this stuff. there is a way of watching about a vindictive organization as you note very carefully. that's the way to go about it. now, i will say this talk by publication in britain. and it may have different laws and may threaten to sue my publisher in a back out. then, an international, the raiders organization invited me to come to think that i talked to members of the house of lords because they were rewriting defamation laws. and they had to go. so i am hopeful that we will deal to publish in the wind. you know, it was a consideration
when i first talked to the editor of "the new yorker," well before paul haggis to that of the church can we talked about my interest in writing about scientology and we were mindful of the fact that coming in now, the church had, for instance, when "time" magazine did an exposé, scientology suit "time" magazine. they lost every step along the way, all the way to the supreme court. but it was the most expensive suit "time" magazine never defended. it took 10 years. i didn't want to put my magazine to that, nor did i want to spend 10 years making acquisitions. if you think there's a chilling effect, there is the chilling effect. but i think now, more people are writing about scientology. i want to commend you and your paper for all the work you've done that is opened up the possibility of seeing inside the
church in a way that it's never been as visible before. >> so when he says there is a chilling effect, this is a guy who wrote about al qaeda. [laughter] >> do we have some questions from the group please click [applause] >> i would like to add you, what do you think the secrets are behind quick divorce.com or scott and very little has instead about it and how did you feel that life is for the future? is there any danger for her in regard to scientology? >> well, i'm not an expert, but
tom and my recent deposition set scientology was finishing its divorce, big surprise. my experience -- this has been unusual for me as a reporter. i've never been involved in a story with so many people that i want to talk to have signed nondisclosure agreements that are credibly punitive so that if somebody who is close to tom cruise, for instance, were to tell her story, should these millions of dollars of regret be facing her. i'm not saying that's the truth with his former wives, but they've all been very quiet and people around cruz and people that are close into scientology often have signed such agreements. >> this is a pretty basic
question. i would like for you to sell me a little bit about what is their the system? i mean, they are called the church. does that mean they believe in god, they believe in jesus? did they read the bible or a day worshipers to read the books? today have a creed? e-mail, the 10 commandments. what a scientology command? >> those are not naïve questions. it is interesting because on the one hand, the church doles itself as a religion. on the other hand, builds itself a science. that's her scientology comes to. a technology that this is not really a pulley system. this is a step icepack guaranteed to succeed latter to spiritual unlike men. our ron hubbard had a perfect understanding of the human mind. if you follow these